Thursday, May 21, 2009

Unhappy anniversary: Great Atlanta fire of 1917

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 10:30 PM

click to enlarge GREAT ATLANTA FIRE OF 1917 "This is Atlanta 911. Hold, please."
  • GREAT ATLANTA FIRE OF 1917 "This is Atlanta 911. Hold, please."

92 years ago today, the so-called Great Fire of 1917 began as a burning pile of mattresses at the Skinner Storage Company warehouse on Decatur Street.

By the time the fire burned out, much of the Old Fourth Ward was destroyed and at least 5,000 people were made homeless.

The fire stopped at Ponce De Leon Avenue, after firefighters dynamited homes in an apparently successful effort to deny the flames a fuel-rich path into the wealthy neighborhood north of Ponce.

Here's an evocative snippet from the May 22, 1917 New York Times report on the fire:

Babies rode atop huge delivery wagons with their mothers holding handfuls of quickly-snatched belongings. Men in their shirtsleeves, who had fought the fire on neighboring houses, believing that it would not reach their own homes, escaped with only the clothes they wore, and many finally were forced to seek a safety zone to hunt for hours for their families who had preceded them out of the burning area.

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